Monday, February 20, 2012

[ZESTCaste] Maya statues stoke anger among majority

Maya statues stoke anger among majority

JP Yadav
Tuesday, 21 February 2012 10:06

Bhagwanpur (Uttar Pradesh): If Mayawati is accused of using public
funds to build her statues, members of her Jatav caste have collected
money to put up one of Ambedkar in this village. Bhagwanpur, located
in Auraiya district in central Uttar Pradesh, mirrors in many ways the
situation that Mayawati finds herself in as election fever peaks — the
hamlet is encircled by villages dominated by the Thakurs and the

"Gaon ka pradhan Thakur hai. Usne hamare gaon ka naam Ambedkar yojana
se katwa diya (The village chief is a Thakur. He got the name of our
village deleted from the Ambedkar scheme)," complained Sri Ram, 58.
Under the scheme, Dalit villages are provided concrete houses and
several other basic amenities. Like Mayawati, under attack from rivals
across parties, the Dalit Jatavs express a sense of battling odds.

The statue of Ambedkar, holding the Constitution in one hand and the
other hand raised with a clenched fist, is perceived as a symbolic
source of strength to fight the powerful castes, just like Mayawati's
statues in Lucknow are seen as an attempt to stamp her authority and
defiance. The Ambedkar idol, at the entry point to the village, is
positioned in a way that no one misses it. But the background is
dotted by thatched roofs, dirt and squalor, signifying that the
village has missed the fruits of development during the past five
years of Mayawati's rule.

But an overwhelming number of Jatavs feel the statues are the reason
why many have "ganged up" against Mayawati. "Brahmin, Thakur, Ahir
(Yadavs) sab bolte hai, Mayawati murtee bana rahi hai... rani ban gayi
hai. Zamin pe utarna padega (Brahmins, Thakurs, Yadavs tell us that
Mayawati is building her statues... She has become a queen. She has to
be brought down)," said Babu Ram, a 70-year-old Jatav. Mayawati's
penchant for spending crores on her statues runs at the core of the
upper and middle castes' antipathy towards her, though many among them
claim their unhappiness with her stems from alleged corruption and
poor governance.

Harishankar Shukla is one of those who believe the chief minister's
statue spree has gone too far. "Aapne kabhi dekha hai kisi zinda aadmi
ka murtee bante? (Have you ever seen statues of live persons being
made?)," sneers the Brahmin from Murainwa village in Kannauj district.
Then he adds: "Apne ko Dalit ki beti kahtee hai. Maharani Elizabeth
ban rahi hai (Mayawati calls herself a Dalit's daughter but behaves
like Queen Elizabeth)."

Brahmins like Shukla, who had perched themselves on the elephant
(Mayawati's poll symbol) in the 2007 election and heralded the success
of her social engineering marked by forging an axis of upper-castes
and Dalits, appear to have got off the pachyderm. In some places,
Brahmins are looking to back the BJP. In others, they appear ready to
align with the strongest candidate to defeat Mayawati's BSP.

Unlike other heartland states, Brahmins have a sizeable presence in
Uttar Pradesh — 10-11 per cent of the voters. The number is slightly
above that of the Yadavs, making Brahmins a key factor in the
elections. Dalits, though, are not prepared to believe Mayawati hasn't
done anything. They argue that she has addressed the biggest issue the
Mulayam Singh Yadav government had failed to —criminalisation.

"In Mulayam raj, everybody, Brahmins, Thakurs or Baniyas (traders) was
fed up with criminalisation. Behenji put all big criminals in jail and
restored law and order," said Sunil Ram, 23. The student of a Kanpur
college felt more than the failures, it was caste hatred working
against Mayawati.

Brahmins denied such allegations of caste bias. "Goondagardi to khatam
kar diya lekin goondaraj aagaya…police ka goonda raj," shot back Kamal
Tiwari. The resident of Badagaon in Kanpur district cited instances
of alleged misuse of Dalit atrocities act and police
high-handedness.Backwards other than those from Mayawati's caste are
upset with alleged "Jatavisation". "Jatavo ne mere khet mein se apna
raasta nikal liya hai, lekin main kuch nahi kar sakta. police ke paas
jaaonga to wo ulta harijan act laga denge (Jatavs use my farmland as a
road to their houses but I cannot complain. If I go to the police
they, will slap a case under the Harijan Act against me)," said
Sikandar Rathore of Murainwa village in Kannauj district. The Jatavs
are unfazed though, saying the Dalits are coming out in large numbers
to vote for Mayawati.

BSP sources revealed that on average, they have enrolled some 20
thousand new voters (mostly Dalits) in each Assembly segment, giving
them the confidence that the ruling BSP would return back to power,
even if its is with diminished numbers. In absolute terms, the high
turnout has translated into 50,000 new votes on average over the
previous elections in 2007 in each Assembly seat, party leaders say.

The Jatavs are unfazed though, saying the Dalits are coming out in
large numbers to vote for Mayawati. "Haathi marega nahi..lekin agar
mara bhi to sawa lakh ka (The elephant will not die. Even if it does,
it will be in the reckoning),"said a BSP leader, quoting a popular
Hindi idiom to signify the strength of an elephant.

-The Telegraph, Calcutta


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